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Cost-share program helps farmers markets open with COVID-19 restrictions

Kaitlyn Riley

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A new program offered through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) helps farmers markets stay open in a pandemic.

The new MDA Safe at the Farmers Market Cost Share Program was designed to help local markets purchase supplies that can keep vendors and customers safe.

“Despite the fact that things are a little bit different this year, everybody is eager to make their local produce available to the community,” Emily Mehr with MDA ag and marketing development said.

Eligible markets may be reimbursed up to $350 on the purchase a variety of equipment that will help markets comply with the Guidance for Minnesota Farmers Markets and Vendors.

Examples of eligible equipment include handwashing stations, additional tables to increase distance between vendors and customers, signage to properly communicate handwashing and social distancing, sanitation supplies to clean commonly touched surfaces, and rope/fencing/tape/chalk to guide customers through their market experience. 

“Farmers markets are really an outlet that provide an additional market for a lot of farmers during the pandemic,” Mehr said. “A lot of traditional markets have either been reduced or put on hold like restaurants or schools. Farmers markets allow farmers and vendors to still have access to selling products and keeping their money in their local economy.”

In order to qualify, farmers market must be authorized to participate in SNAP in 2020. They must also be located in or adjacent to a food desert or be located in or adjacent to a low-income or moderate-income area and serve a population with limited access, such as the elderly or disabled.

Applications to the program are accepted through May 31, 2020, or until all funds are depleted. Funds will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Markets will receive payment approximately two to four weeks after their application is approved.

More information and the application form can be found on MDA’s Safe at the Market Cost Share website.

Funding for this program is made available through the Good Food Access Program.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in both radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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